Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Screen 24 articles

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Poster
  • Despite tossing “Missouri” into its title, Three Billboards demands absolution from any fidelity to actual times or places. The wobbly accents, disjointed spatial relations, vague socioeconomic milieu, and catastrophic ignorance and appropriations of blackness leave no other option. Sadly, the movie feels incoherent even on its own hermetic, rhetorically extravagant terms.

  • Martin McDonagh’s mannered distortion of characters into foul extremes and narrative convenience evoked a London playwright’s stunt-pulling more than genuine lived drama (and with anyone other than Frances McDormand as the vengeful mother, it would be patently absurd).

  • The movie is a game—a cinematic game in which McDonagh feigns empathy with a magician’s sleight of hand. His characters’ ordeals, demands, sacrifices, and redemptions fit together like, well, a jigsaw puzzle, and he retrofits their traits and experiences to fit. In “Three Billboards,” I have the sense that, despite the fulsome emotional displays, McDonagh is far more interested in his narrative contraptions and contrivances than in his characters, who exist solely to play their part in the plot.

  • McDonagh is here so aggressive in eliciting satisfied hoots and hollers from his audience that his film fumbles even on the level of wish fulfillment. Released in a climate where it’s sure to be embraced as “prescient” or “of the moment” (a response that paradoxically undermines the reality that the issues the film pokes at have never not been relevant), Three Billboards is unlikely to be talked about much after awards season mania has died down.

  • The reason to do any barking — well, the reason for me — is that “Three Billboards” feels so off about so many things. It’s one of those movies that really do think they’re saying something profound about human nature and injustice. It’s set in the country’s geographical middle, which should trigger a metaphor alert. . . . Individually, not one of these choices qualifies as a disaster. But they’re conflated here in a way that achieves a grating otherworldliness.

  • McDonagh never really answers essential questions about his piece, pre-occupied with the tease of the structural challenge he has set himself. His characters’ motivations are consistently elusive: Tarantino-ish dialogue may aim to shock with casual racism and vulgarity, but Three Billboards never fully comes alive outside its writer’s mind as its characters kneel to his will. Punchy sequences bounce off each other as McDonagh’s well-written pages often struggle to slot together.

  • The cast is uniformly quite strong, the dialogue often quite amusing... Here’s where my reservations kick in... You can expect a new fact to drip down about every 15 minutes to “complicate” your opinion of McDormand, Rockwell or Harrelson. If I know that this’ll happen, there’s really not much complication.

  • All of this is sympathetic in theory, hard going in practice. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has the makings of a crowd-pleaser, replete with righteous monologues to cue seal-like applause from a left-leaning audience, but this face in the crowd finds McDonagh too clever to be funny, and congenitally incapable of locating a single distinguishing image, either in fairy tale Bruges or in tumbledown Appalachia.

  • It's more ambitious than Mr. McDonagh’s earlier features. Like the older ones, it has loads of gab, plenty of guns and the spectacle of men (mainly) behaving terribly. It also restlessly, if not satisfyingly, shifts between comedy and tragedy — a McDonagh specialty — splattering blood along the way. This time, though, he has also given his movie characters instead of disposable contrivances, a plot instead of self-reflexive ideas about storytelling and a rather diffuse overarching metaphor.

  • McDormand’s no-vanity performance is fun to watch, and Harrelson is terrific too. He canters through the movie breezily, and it deflates when he exits. But Three Billboards is more arch than it is truly smart. This is life in a small American town as viewed by someone who seems to have spent no more than a few drive-through minutes in one. And even though Three Billboards is intended as a wry cartoon, not a realist tract, it still hangs by a precarious plot thread.

  • If you’ve seen the trailer for this picture you have some idea of both its plot and its tone. Trailers often lie, but the ones for this movie haven’t. The full film delivers on both the raucousness and the poignancy promised... The surface stuff, which gains a lot from sideline characters such as the felt-table whiz played by Peter DInklage, is all very lively and flirtily outrageous. But the deeper stuff is more satisfying still.

  • As a non-fan of In Bruges (2008) and Seven Psychopaths (2012), I was pleasantly surprised by the grim comic force of Martin McDonagh’s morality tale... What McDonagh lacks in visual eloquence he makes up in thorny performances and staccato prose, with the occasional searing moment that stitches all elements together—a bout between McDormand and Harrelson suddenly brought to a halt by a cancerous cough that leaves a face speckled with blood and loquacious enemies in silent solidarity.

  • When the film closes with McDormand and Rockwell — perhaps the two most disparate characters in the film — sharing a quiet moment of commonality between them, McDonagh shows an optimism that solidifies Three Billboards… as his best work yet. The pathos and tragedy of his previous works now flow organically through his characters, and it makes the humour hit even harder.

  • McDonagh finds the best balance of tones he has yet on the big screen—which is not to say that this audacious and sometimes brutal movie hangs together completely. The last half-hour goes a little gonzo for my taste, with coincidences and bodies piling up fast, and there are at least two apparent endings before the real one comes . . . But at its best, Three Billboards has two important things McDonagh’s previous films lacked: a lived-in sense of place and a vividly drawn female protagonist.

  • The sharp dialogue in Martin McDonagh’s third feature is funny and poignant by turns... Three Billboards is a thoroughly entertaining film, but I think there is at least one problem involving the motivation for the presence of a mysterious stranger who becomes a suspect. On the whole the story works well, with some unexpected changes of heart among the characters and an ending that suggests the possibility of healing within the town.

  • Cinematographer Ben Davis creates that space deftly with calm images and Carter Burwell’s score gives it the right mood of folksy melancholia (song choices are dead on apt too). McDormand, the queen of cold quipping, has never been so laconic, or tragic; Harrelson gives off the generous bonhomie that lights up his best roles, but it’s Rockwell who’s the real revelation here, winning the sympathy that only the best of Calibans capture with a performance of an astonishing range of awkwardnesses.

  • In a film that sets up a stark conflict between Mildred and an incompetent police department, the sight of her gingerly cradling Bill's face as he shamefully apologizes complicates the narrative, prefiguring later arcs of redemption and self-doubt that expand the already enormous moral range of McDonagh's story.

  • McDonagh’s script treats its dark subject with just the right amount of irony, without ever turning Mildred’s horrific loss into some sort of parody. Tough, John Wayne-looking, denim-wearing and chain-smoking Mildred is a wonderfully multifaceted character, and McDormand adds a subtle layer of fragility any time her heartless public persona leaves room for her more private, grieving and fragile self.

  • Where The Shape of Water gives viewers exactly what they want under the pretense of transgression, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri adopts the vague form of an awards-season crowd-pleaser to put across more bitter and wounding truths... As great as McDormand is, though, Three Billboards belongs to Woody Harrelson as the sheriff who serves, gamely and with a nice mixture of tetchiness and dignity, as both Mildred’s foil and as the moral counterweight to her unchecked quest for revenge.

  • It brings out the best in the performers’ technical abilities but at the same time has them step into the shoes of ordinary people, highlighting their weaknesses, stubbornness and faults... Martin McDonagh has taken a tragic storyline in the grand tradition of film noir, the genre that addresses absolute evil, the evil that should rightfully remain faceless, and grafted it onto an extremely solid, practical foundation.

  • The narrative makes little sense scene by scene, with wild tonal contortions and character 180s, yet this incoherence is the source of the film’s intoxicating energy, which is harnessed by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell in what’re among the finest and most daring performances of their respective careers.

  • Despite the impressive amount of mayhem and gore on view, Three Billboards is an unusually literary film. McDonagh, who began his career as a playwright, and whose previous films include Seven Psychopaths (2012) and the brilliant In Bruges (2008), is intensely concerned with language. In fact, Three Billboards is partly about the power of language—specifically, the outrage and havoc caused by the few words that Mildred chooses to display.

  • Where McDonagh really struggles, however, is in marrying his typically rich characterizations (of those characters he actually cares about) and morally freighted scenario in a narrative construct that still leaves room for his usual litany of fucks, pisses, and cunts.

  • What places Three Billboards in a higher emotional register than its two predecessors is the tragic poignancy of Angela’s death and the sincerity of the sorrow Mildred expresses to Willoughby and Anne. The late rapprochement between Mildred and Dixon . . . begins when he tells her where they can find the rapist drifter who has menaced Mildred and beaten up Dixon. It turns into something much more hopeful when they confess to each other that they’re uncertain whether or not they’ll kill him.

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